Supriya Vidic’s every word and gesture radiate joy and serenity. Just as her presence is impressive, so is her past.
Currently studying Strategic Communications at Columbia University, this young woman also has on her résumé six years of service in the United States Army, including deployments in Iraq, Kuwait and South Korea. On top of her other admirable feats, Supriya not only practices but also teaches the Transcendental Meditation technique.
We had the pleasure of talking to Supriya about the experiences that have shaped her amazing life.
Supriya, what actually inspired you to join the U.S. Army and stay in service for six years?
SUPRIYA VIDIC: I wanted to see the world and have the educational benefits. My initial contract was for four years, but I re-enlisted for another two years because I wanted to deploy in Iraq or Afghanistan and did not have enough time left under my original contract. I really enjoyed many aspects of what I was doing in the armed service.
What was it that you loved about your time in the military service?
SUPRIYA VIDIC: It is really sad what happens at war. However, I’m really grateful for the personal fulfillment that came with my time in the Army.
I was really lucky to have really good mentors and I owe a lot that I have in life to their guidance. One of my best friends to this day is one of my first bosses. Outside the military I have not found that kind of brotherhood where people literally have your back no matter what. At that stage in my life I really needed that.
I was also really good at being in the military. I got promoted really fast and got to take on a lot of responsibilities. Within a year I achieved a rank that for most people takes six years to get… So I was young and female, yet in charge of very large teams of mostly men. I mean men! Older than me, not boys! And I was a girl! I was not even a woman yet!
How did you manage to achieve this?
SUPRIYA VIDIC: I was in the telecommunications world and very technically proficient at my job. I was also a pretty good runner and if you’re physically fit it means a lot in the Army. I was not good at running when I first started at the military. I just worked hard and did whatever it took to get better.
What made you decide to return to civilian life?
SUPRIYA VIDIC: When I was younger, 20‒21, it was great! I had no problem being in the military. The older I got the more I realized this path was not sustainable because, one day, I was going to have a kid. Having a child and being in the military was not something I was prepared to do. I had a lot of friends in the Army who had children, and they struggled. I just did not want to do that.
Also, a big part of why I left the military was that while I was in Iraq I was working in the United States Embassy with a lot of brilliant, college-educated Department of State diplomats. I just saw a different potential in myself being around people coming from that educational background.
You turned your life around 180 degrees. You learned Transcendental Meditation, left the Army, and enrolled in Maharishi University of Management (MUM). You have said that it was only after you learned TM that you finally realized how much stress you had actually accumulated over those years in military service. What were the experiences that made you aware of how being under stress had impacted you?
SUPRIYA VIDIC: There were a couple of things that made me become very cognizant about that. I learned to meditate two months before I got out of the Army, and I came to MUM 24 hours after leaving the Army.
I remember calling home and talking to my stepdad on the phone after having been at MUM for a month. At one point he said, “You laugh a lot now. You did not use to laugh.” I was like, “Yeah, it’s true!” I actually smile and laugh a lot and I really didn’t do that before.
That’s when I realized that when people are stressed out, they don’t smile. Or laugh.
A bit later I came across a home video that I had made at my sister’s birthday party two years earlier. I was watching the video and I was like, “Who is this person? That’s not me!” The way I was acting, my voice—you could sense the tension in my voice. It was not the way I talk now, and I did not know it was bad.
When you’re around people who are stressed, you can tell by their voice and the way they walk and their small mannerisms, but they don’t know it themselves. So I felt the same thing looking at myself years later.
You have also mentioned that after you learned Transcendental Meditation you finally had a full night of sleep?
SUPRIYA VIDIC: Yes. I did not know I had a sleeping problem because everybody else was like that in the Army. I thought I was normal sleeping four hours a night!
How were you able to function with that little rest?
SUPRIYA VIDIC: I was able to function fine. Well, even now, to be honest, I sometimes sleep four hours a night because I have a very busy life and I just have to. What I observe, however, is that if I don’t get 7‒8 hours of sleep I’m not my best the next day—I’m not as sharp.
So, when I was getting four hours of sleep per night I was functional, but I wasn’t what I could have been.
Which other effects has practicing Transcendental Meditation had on you?
SUPRIYA VIDIC: I left home at age 16 and joined the Army. I was a high school dropout. I did not have a proper education, yet currently I’m at an Ivy League university. I see that the reason for this is Transcendental Meditation.
It has allowed me that mental space, and it has been proven that TM raises IQ. I really think my IQ has jumped since I learned to meditate! I really, truly believe that. I feel much smarter; not only do I have improved brain functioning, but I also make better choices for myself that allow for the opportunities to come.
The other thing is that, yes, the mind obviously gets better, but TM also cultures the heart. When I was stressed out, my personal relationships were okay, but they weren’t wonderful. But today I am married to a great guy who allows me to blossom in the fullest value of myself.
I’m not saying that meditating is the reason for my great relationship, but it helps, right? You have to be able to have a certain level of maturity, of trust, of communication and values to create the space for a great relationship. I think it is because of TM that I’m able to do that.
I’ve also noticed that if I’m occasionally too busy and skip a meditation session, there’s a drastic difference in my day-to-day life! I’m either irritable around my husband, or the time pressure suddenly seems too much for me to handle. I have a very full plate and time is extremely valuable. If I don’t meditate, time begins to slip away.
And that makes me realize, I should not skip a meditation!
You’re about to graduate from Columbia University this spring. Do you have any plans for the future?
SUPRIYA VIDIC: I’m still exploring different options. I will always teach TM, at least part time. I cannot not do that!
Wherever you go, if you are a meditator, people say, “Oh, something about you is different—what is it?” So of course I talk about TM. Many people from my class have now learned to meditate, so that’s nice!
Well, the way you radiate happiness and peace is bound to attract attention!
SUPRIYA VIDIC: Thank you! I think all of us meditators radiate that. As Maharishi said, “Happiness is a fragrance from a flower that radiates and all good things are naturally attracted to it.” I think this is actually very true.
Thank you, Supriya, for this wonderful interview!